There are some issues that seem very black-or-white to the people who find them important. Gun control is one of those issues for me. It’s always seemed obvious to me why eliminating firearms (yes, I’m going to go there) is the right thing to do. But in the past, I could let it go. So 2nd Amendment proponents don’t agree with me. Fine. Live and let live. Except here’s the thing — they’re literally not letting us live. Disagreement on this crucial issue is costing us our lives. 4 days ago, 20 kindergartners were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut. (Along with 7 of their adult protectors — let’s not give them short shrift just because they were lucky enough to grow up before dying.) The bile rises in my throat whenever I read about this horror and injustice. What can we do? we all ask ourselves. Well let’s start by calling opposing gun control what it really is: a moral atrocity. And let’s stand up and take down the offensive arguments the gun lobby has systematically and coldheartedly promoted. (Gun activists, please read this. If you are so certain about what you believe, you shouldn’t be afraid of what I have to say.)
- Owning firearms is my right. It’s in the Constitution.
Indeed it is your legal right, if you are an American. As a Canadian, I can tell you that the idea that any person is entitled to own a lethal weapon seems patently absurd. I mean, you have the specified right to own a gun but not, say, health insurance or a refrigerator, which are actually useful and much less likely to harm someone? That the government would even comment on this one object is bizarre. So why did they? Because the Founding Fathers intended to allow citizens to protect themselves from tyranny. Nothing else. If you are a gun-rights activist, do you imagine that the government today, in 2012, is coming after you? And if it is, do you actually believe that your pathetic little store of firearms will stop them? It won’t and you know it, so your gun stash is not there to protect you from tyranny. I read somewhere that in the 1700s, it took a full 30 seconds to reload your gun after firing one shot. A mass killing using guns back then was virtually impossible. Do you think for one second that, if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they would stand for the 2nd Amendment being used for massacres — school massacres, at that? If so, you are, frankly, delusional.
As it is said, “Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose.” The fact that guns are legal increases the chance that I will be shot while buying groceries. (You can’t argue this. These mass shootings happen far more frequently in this country than in any other. How many can we count this year alone?) Therefore my right to life and liberty is less important than your right to pack heat. If you are a gun-rights activist, at least be man enough to admit that.
- Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer to kill people. I guess we should ban fertilizer, knives and cars too.
Except that fertilizer, knives, cars and anything else you can think of each have other, legitimate, useful purposes. The only purpose of a gun is to maim or kill. Additionally, a gun makes it possible to kill many more people, in much less time, than anything else. How many people do you think you could kill with a candlestick before being overpowered? One? A perfect example is the tragic school attack in China just hours before the Newtown massacre. The perpetrator used a knife and had 23 victims. Guess how many died? None.
- Guns don’t kill, people do.
I love this one. Do you live in a world where pistols go rogue and run around shooting at each other while their owners aren’t looking? Every gun that kills someone had a person at the other end of it.
- Banning guns won’t stop criminals from having them.
Since when is the difficulty in enforcing a law reason not to write the law in the first place? Last I noticed, murder is still illegal in the U.S., but it keeps happening. Why don’t we legalize murder, and drugs then, since people keep using them? As a pain management physician, I can tell you how incredibly difficult it is to keep people from misusing their medication. Yet we don’t just throw up our hands and say, “You know what? Writing these prescriptions and drug-testing you is a real pain. From now on, you take as much Percocet as you want!”
We create laws because a) they act as a deterrent for criminal behaviour (not as an eliminator), and b) they give us recourse to punish people when they break them. If guns were illegal except for law enforcement officers, police would be able to confiscate any firearm they came across. Gun producers would be shut down. Any intelligent person can see that simply in terms of sheer numbers, gun prevalence would decrease. With fewer guns, you have fewer shootings. I’m not saying no shootings. I’m saying fewer shootings.
- We need guns to protect ourselves.
This conjures up the image of the nice, law-abiding citizen confronting an intruder in their home and thankfully having their trusty gun to protect their sleeping family. Except that’s not how it usually works. Most “self-defense” gun violence is between people who know each other, where the reality of who is defending and who is offending is not at all clear. Of all self-defense handgun homicides in 1997 for example, according to the FBI Supplementary Homicide Report, only 2.3% were ruled justifiable homicides by civilians. Which means the other 97.7% turned out to be just plain homicides. And that’s not taking into account how often guns in the home are used in suicides or accidental injuries/deaths.
- Banning guns won’t stop violent crime. Crazy people don’t obey laws.
It’s exactly because crazy people don’t obey laws that we shouldn’t give them the tools to break them. If a murderous person wants to be murderous, why would we not do everything in our power to prevent them from accessing a lethal weapon when it has no other possible use? Yes, they could kill with a car, but they can also drive to and from work in a car. The only thing they can do with a weapon is injure or kill. There is a serious moral failing in being lukewarm about preventing gun sales to the mentally ill because it might infringe on your own gun rights. You are therefore saying it is fine with you that the rest of us are at risk every day.
As an aside, I totally agree with those who are calling for an overhaul of this nation’s mental health system. They are absolutely right. The current ultimate treatment for the mentally ill in the U.S. is prison. That can’t continue. That being said, why are the vast majority of mass murderers men? If mental health was the only contributor, the number of female killers should be almost equal.
- Guns are a fun hobby. There’s nothing wrong with hunting.
For those of us who are not vegetarians, we don’t have a problem with hunting. In a more moderate mood, I might be willing to concede that guns, when genuinely used for humane hunting with the goal of obtaining food for consumption or sale, might have a place in modern society. But if the gun lobby is so unwilling to be moderate, then I am too. There’s no way to adequately police whether people are using their guns only for hunting food. So take them away. If I loved knitting, and knitting needles were being used in multiple mass killings of innocent bystanders, then I would gladly give up my hobby if there was a chance one fewer person would be killed. Because I’m, you know, a compassionate human being.
- The solution to gun violence is more guns. If the victims had been armed, this wouldn’t have happened.
If anyone is actually saying this after this most recent tragedy in Newtown, we are not having a discussion with intellectual equals. Do you really think we should put lethal weapons into the hands of kindergartners? And to suggest that teachers should be armed is just laughable. The NRA has really shown its simultaneously sociopathic and infantile worldview on this one. What happens when the school bully, or even the class clown, pinches his gym teacher’s pistol(s)? After the Virginia Tech killings (an event that hit close to home for our family, since my father-in-law has worked there for 30 years and my brother- and sister-in-law were freshmen in lockdown on campus that day) some gun activists suggested that the university should be allowing students to carry weapons, to which a professor promptly replied that he would resign from teaching immediately. Why do people who put forth this argument never acknowledge that human beings are volatile? All it takes is one disagreement, one bad day, and your self-control can be weakened. For some people, it might take a lot to get them to actually brandish their gun. For others, it might not take much. How the heck would we know who is who?
- We don’t know if changing gun laws will actually do anything.
So is that a reason not to even try? But the truth is that actually we do know. There was another New Town mass shooting once, in New Town, Australia in 1996. 12 days later, gun control laws were put into place. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since. By now we have all seen the statistics: every other industrialized country in the world has strict gun laws and nowhere near the gun violence the U.S. does. This New York Times article takes a succinct look.
The simple fact of the matter is that America’s gun culture puts all of us at risk. I am at risk, you are at risk, our precious children are at risk of being slaughtered every single day … at school, in the movie theatre, at a gas station … because anyone around us may have a gun and could snap. Gun activists, how long will you put your heads in the sand? Does this not matter to you? Will it only matter to you if your own child is murdered by a madman? Will it even change your mind then? The Onion had a headline to the effect of “Nation realizes this is just something that happens now.” Understand this — if you support guns, you are saying you are OK with that. If there is any chance that eliminating guns could decrease the number of homicides in this country, you should be supporting gun control. And if your reaction to the Newtown school shooting was not wondering how to stop this from continuing to happen but how to make sure your gun rights aren’t affected, you are, quite frankly, a bad person. There’s no other way to say it. You are a bad person and you will have to answer to God for it. This New Yorker article says it well: that people who argue against gun control have made a clear moral choice, that the comfort they derive from carrying a weapon is more important than the safety of innocent children.
Bringing up God, by the way, is another interesting avenue. When I first moved to the U.S. I was incredulous (and still am) that the political party known for gun advocacy is the same party supposedly affiliated with the Christian Right. How can this be? Do any of us honestly believe God is pro-gun? And how on earth can you be anti-abortion but pro-2nd Amendment? You care about an unborn child but not the children we already have with us? I am anti-gun because I am pro-life. I care about all lives, not just some. I’ve also read that Anne Graham quote that says for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our lives, so we cannot have it both ways and simultaneously demand his blessings. Let me state here that I agree with her. When God is not the centre of our lives, chaos will naturally ensue, and as a society we cannot expect to do well. But to apply that quote in this context as an argument that guns were not the cause is offensive, both to the victims and to our collective intelligence. God gave us brains so we would use them. Only after we have done everything we humanly can to prevent such horror (such as eliminating weapons and access to them) can we sit back and say that this is all about our poor relationship with God. It’s like saying that a person died in a head-on collision because he had rejected God. Well OK, that might be true, but perhaps his not wearing a seatbelt also had something to do with it.
It is not OK that I have to live with a higher risk of losing my child because you love your guns. If your misplaced loyalty to a killing machine didn’t affect me, I could leave you to it. But it does. If your weapon gets into the wrong hands (and those wrong hands might be yours, for all I know), anyone in my family could be dead. That alone is reason enough to get rid of the weapon. There is no advantage to owning a gun that trumps the safety of the rest of us.
Gun activists, if you are still not convinced, and if you still believe yourself to have a shred of humanity, look at this Washington Post slideshow. Do not bury your head in the sand. If you believe guns are great, at least be big enough to own it. Look into the eyes of these innocent, dead people. Imagine what it must be like to be five years old, to see your small friends shot to death before your very eyes, to see your teacher slaughtered while trying to shield you, to be so terrified that you vomit all over yourself and lose control of your bladder, to scream for your mommy and daddy whom in fact you will never see again in this life, to feel a bullet rip through your own tiny body. Have the courage to imagine that scene and to recognize what it says about you that you still believe it’s more important for you to own guns than for kindergartners to be protected.
When I was getting my baby dressed for school Friday morning, those parents in Connecticut were doing the exact same thing. A few hours later, mine came home. Theirs did not. How will any of us survive if our children are next? Fellow gun-control advocates, what are we going to do about this?
UPDATE: Another great article laying out the simple truth. Withholding gun control is like withholding antibiotics, and we’re allowing a bunch of crazies to do just that. How I hope that this author is right, and that one day soon gun control will be as ubiquitous, and its rightness as universally accepted, as seatbelts and smoking bans. Especially because seatbelts (although I’m all for them, of course) generally only help the people wearing them (it’s rare that you’re going to kill someone else by not wearing a seatbelt) but gun control would protect us all. And how I hope that the NRA’s sunset is near, and that they’ll soon be thought of in the same category, and understood to be as evil and anachronistic as, the KKK.